Andy Murray went into the US Open with the modest ambition of living up to his No 17 seeding. The 19-year-old Scot achieved that aim by reaching the third round and will now have to realign his sights after beating Fernando Gonzalez in five sets here last night to reach the last 16 of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
Murray won 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 after two hours and 44 minutes on Grandstand Court, where he played both his matches last year. Twelve months ago he defied cramp to beat Andrei Pavel but lost a second successive five-set match to Arnaud Clement. If those contests raised doubts about Murray's fitness, he will see this victory as evidence that he can now last the distance.
Gonzalez is a tricky opponent. Few players hit their forehand harder than the 26-year-old Chilean, but he also likes to slow the pace down. The No 10 seed has enjoyed an excellent summer, reaching three semi-finals on the American hard-court circuit.
The players had gone on court with Murray struggling to focus on his match after the emotion of Andre Agassi's farewell match, which had finished less than an hour earlier. Murray was in the locker room when Agassi returned after his defeat to Benjamin Becker. The players gave Agassi a standing ovation.
Murray said that more than half the players in the locker room were in tears and that he had struggled to control his own emotions. "I found it quite difficult to concentrate because I didn't realise quite how much he meant to tennis and to myself until I saw him play his last point," Murray said.
After Murray won a first set featuring five breaks of serve, Gonzalez took command for two sets. The Scot's response was resolute and in the fourth he made the crucial break in the eighth game, capitalising on a series of errors.
If Murray had seemed a little subdued earlier in the match he was pumped up now, clenching his fist and roaring to the crowd. There was plenty of vocal support for Murray, who has become increasingly popular here.
Murray won the first two games of the final set without dropping a point and by the time he led 4-0 the British No 1 had won seven games in a row. Gonzalez, increasingly frustrated, smashed his racket as Murray took a 5-1 lead and in the following game was deducted a point for hitting the ball away in anger.
Gonzalez saved three match points when he served at 5-1 down but Murray was not to be denied. He earned another three match points in the following game with an ace and converted the first with a wonderful cross-court forehand.
Murray will now play No 7 seed Nikolay Davydenko. His quarter of the draw has opened up following Marat Safin's second-round win over David Nalbandian, the No 4 seed. The Russian won 6-3, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 7-6.
Agassi had nursed his failing back through two five-set cliff-hangers only for a German by the name of Becker to beat him in his final tournament. Benjamin, a 25-year-old ranked No 112 in the world, is no relation to Boris and his game bears little relation to his famous namesake's either. A younger Agassi would surely have swept such an opponent aside, but from the moment the American opened his first service game with a double fault it was clear that he was in trouble.
Agassi, who had needed injections of cortisone and anti-inflammatory drugs to enable him to play, seemed in pain whenever he had to reach for his shots. The wonder was that he kept the match alive for so long. Becker won 7-5, 6-7, 6-4, 7-5 after a match lasting just over three hours.
"The pain came quickly," Agassi said. "It can do that and it did. I knew I was in trouble at that point. You immediately start cutting corners that you know are going to come back to haunt you. Then you know it's going to gradually get worse sometimes very quickly." Agassi's last shot was a forehand which he hit long to give Becker three match points. As tears welled up in Agassi's eyes, the German hit his 27th ace to secure victory.
A standing ovation for Agassi lasted nearly five minutes. He wept as he sat in his chair and there were more tears as he waved farewell to his favourite audience at a tournament which he has not missed in 21 years.
He took the microphone and told the crowd: "The scoreboard says I lost today but what the scoreboard doesn't say is what I have found. Over the last 21 years you have pulled for me on the court and also in life. I found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed, even in my lowest moments. I have found generosity and you have given me shoulders to stand on. I will carry the memories of you for the rest of my life."
Rafael Nadal secured his place in the fourth round with a four-sets win over Wesley Moodie, while Andy Roddick needed five sets to beat Fernando Verdasco. Lleyton Hewitt dropped only six games in beating Novak Djokovic.
Nadia Petrova, the No 5 seed, became the highest-ranked woman player to go out when she lost in three sets to France's Tatiana Golovin. Lindsay Davenport, the No 10 seed, saved two match points before beating Katarina Srebotnik, a 25-year-old Slovenian ranked No 23 in the world, in a final set tie-break.
Results from Flushing Meadows
Second round: O ROCHUS (Bel) bt R Sweeting (US) 6-2 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-0; M Safin (Rus) bt D NALBANDIAN (Arg) 6-3 7-5 2-6 3-6 7-6. Third round: T ROBREDO (Sp) bt S Wawrinka (Swit) 6-3 6-4 6-2; M Youzhny (Rus) bt D FERRER (Sp) 4-6 6-4 7-5 6-4; B Becker (Ger) bt A Agassi (US) 7-5 6-7 6-4 7-5; J Novak (Cz Rep) bt X Malisse (Bel) 6-7 6-3 6-4 6-4; L HEWITT (Aus) bt N DJOKOVIC (Serb) 6-3 6-1 6-2; R GASQUET (Fr) bt M Chiudinelli (Swit) 7-6 6-3 2-6 7-6; A MURRAY (GB) bt F GONZALEZ (Chile) 6-3 3-6 2-6 6-3 6-2; R NADAL (Sp) bt W Moodie (SA) 6-4 7-6 7-6; A RODDICK (US) bt (22) F VERDASCO (Sp) 6-7 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-2; T BERDYCH (Cz Rep) bt D TURSUNOV (Rus) 6-7 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4.
Third round: L DAVENPORT (US) bt K SREBOTNIK (Sloven) 3-6 6-3 7-6; V Razzano (Fr) bt K Kanepi (Est) 7-5 6-2; A CHAKVETADZE (Rus) bt V Azarenka (Bela) 6-4 6-3; D SAFINA (Rus) bt J Gajdosova (Slovak) 6-3 6-0; P SCHNYDER (Swit) bt M BARTOLI (Fr) 0-6 6-3 6-3; T GOLOVIN (Fr) bt N PETROVA (Rus) 7-5 6-7 6-3.
First round: M Fish (US) and F Gonzalez (Chile) bt S Grosjean (Fr) and D Tursunov (Rus) 6-3 2-6 1-2 ret. Second round: A Fisher (Aus) and T Phillips (US) bt S ASPELIN (Swe) and T PERRY (Aus) 6-3 5-7 7-6; A Clement and M Llodra (Fr) bt L DLOUHY and P VIZNER (Cz Rep) 7-5 6-1; J BJORKMAN (Swe) and M MIRNYI (Bela) bt F Mayer and R Schüttler (Ger) 6-3 6-2; F SANTORO (Fr) and N ZIMONJIC (Serb) bt J I Chela (Arg) and N Massu (Chile) 6-3 6-2; M DAMM (Cz Rep) and L PAES (Ind) bt A Peya (Aut) and B Phau (Ger) 6-3 7-6; M KOHLMANN and A WASKE (Ger) bt L Burgsmüller (Ger) and T Parrott (US) 6-3 6-2; P Goldstein and J Thomas (US) bt W ARTHURS (Aus) and J GIMELSTOB (US) 2-6 7-6 7-6; J Nieminen (Fin) & G Oliver (US) bt J KNOWLE & Jurgen MELZER (Aut) 7-6 6-2.
First round: L Granville and C Gullickson (US) bt E LOIT (Fr) and N PRATT (Aus) 6-7 7-6 6-3. Second round: V RUANO PASCUAL (Sp) and P SUAREZ (Arg) bt A Frazier and V King (US) 6-4 6-3; K PESCHKE (Cz Rep) and F SCHIAVONE (It) bt A and K Bondarenko (Ukr) 7-5 6-1; L HUBER (SA) and S MIRZA (Ind) bt S Cohen-Aloro (Fr) and M J Martinez Sanchez (Sp) 6-0 6-3; M NAVRATILOVA (US) and N PETROVA (Rus) bt M Krajicek (Neth) and C Morariu (US) 6-2 6-1; J Jankovic (Serb) and B Mattek (US) bt S Bremond and T Golovin (Fr) 6-3 6-2; A Harkleroad (US) and G Voskoboeva (Rus) bt C Pin (Fr) and M Sequera (Ven) 2-1 ret; A Chakvetadze & E Vesnina (Rus) bt E Laine (Fin) & S Sfar (Tun) 6-4 6-3; S Asagoe & A Morigami (Japan) bt M BARTOLI (Fra) & S PEER (Isr) 4-6 7-6 6-4.
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